Attracting and retaining talent is increasingly critical for the success of city economies, but this is a big challenge for many of our cities. While the UK’s great universities are spread around the country, many graduates head straight for the bright lights of the capital after completing their studies.
London is not only more attractive to new graduates generally; it is especially attractive to high achievers. The capital accounts for around 19 per cent of all jobs. But six months after graduation, London employed 22 per cent of those graduates who moved city and were now in work, and 38 per cent of those new graduates who have a first or upper second class degree from a Russell Group university.
The patterns of graduate migration appear to be primarily driven by job opportunities. If a city wants to attract and retain a greater number of graduates, then it needs to support economic growth, rather than rely on narrower policies specifically targeted at graduate attraction and retention. Cities should aim to support the creation of more jobs, and particularly high-skilled knowledge jobs.
Cities and their partners – including universities and businesses – should concentrate on increasing the supply and quality of home-grown talent. Efforts to increase educational attainment of residents and improve workforce development should take priority. Improving schools will also help make cities more attractive for skilled workers with young families.
Cities need to ensure that the factors that underpin successful city economies are in place and working well. This involves:
Cities and partners should coordinate efforts to boost demand for high skilled workers by concentrating on innovation, inward investment and enterprise policies. Importantly cities should ensure that any resources are being deployed to maximum effect, and regularly reviewed and evaluated to identify options for improvement.
Those cities that have quality higher education institutions should look to make the most of them. Cities need to work with their universities and businesses to increase the demand for graduates, as well as helping graduates find existing graduate jobs. And those cities that do not have universities need to think carefully about the costs and benefits of trying to acquire one.